Following the billions

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Updated Dec 14, 2009


You’ve heard reports about the diverse types of projects that the federal bailouts are funding, in some cases how few jobs they will create, and how some of the expenditures are scheduled to take place years after the economy is likely to have rebounded.


Two websites can help you track this fiscal free-for-all. They’re both called “Stimulus Watch,” but are quite different.


The most publicized one is Stimulus Watchwhich lists many proposed projects that could become eligible for the federal funds. For example, item 1: almost $10,000 to put doorbells on public housing units in Laurel, Miss. It would create two jobs, presumably quite temporary.


Users can vote for or against any project as worthy of funding, and the running tally is displayed. You can also add comments about a project’s worthiness. For example, 95 percent of respondents consider spend $386 million for a 1,000-room hotel (owned by the city, operated privately) to connect to the Dallas Convention Center to be not a critical use of federal money. Opposing comments note that if it’s such a great idea, let the private sector pony up.


One thorough, nitty-gritty site for following the money is the Stimulus Watch  that’s part of US Budget Watch, a project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New America Foundation. At a glance, you can glean status info, such as automakers having already spent of $23 billion of the $25 billion loan approved in December.


Or click on any project area and see a detailed breakdown by line item and year. For instance, one spreadsheet tells you all the areas that fall under “infrastructure,” which covers a lot more than roads and bridges. It also tells how infrastructure’s $142 billion share of the $787 billion will be dragged out all the way until 2019 … by which time another recession probably will have come and gone and we’ll be measuring federal budgets not in trillions, but quadrillions.

— Max Heine